By Tony Webeck (NRL.com)
Paul McGregor's rescue mission of St George Illawarra will have to wait another season to be brought to full fruition after he watched his side surrender their finals aspiration to Brisbane on Friday.
When McGregor took over from sacked head coach Steve Price in late May, he set his charges the task of winning eight of their last 14 games, a feat they can still achieve with a win over Newcastle next Sunday at Hunter Stadium.
Unfortunately however for the Red V faithful a win over the Knights will still leave them agonisingly adrift of the necessary points to make the top eight and pondering how good their team can be in 2015.
After answering Ben Hunt's ninth minute try with one to Jason Nightingale six minutes later the Dragons were successfully trading punches with an equally desperate Broncos team but when Brisbane scored twice in a period of eight sets to the Dragons' one, McGregor's men were unable to keep pace.
"I think after 21 minutes of the game it was 6-4," McGregor said.
"We know they come out hard and we managed to win that arm wrestle for a while and I think that kick pressure penalty hurt us and then to try and find field position we tried a short kick.
"They just turned up the tempo of the game between the 20 minute mark and the 40 minute mark and they won that 18-0 and that's where we lost the game.
"I was unhappy with that 20-minute period and a bit mystified as to why with where the season was at and what we needed to do, to lose that period 18-0, I'm not happy about that.
"I spoke to the boys about it; when we've been playing the better sides, we've got a 15-minute window in us when we're not playing the full 80 and when you're playing against quality teams and they see that, they go for the kill.
"We've got to be better than that.
"I thought when I took over that we needed to get to 28 [competition points] and in the end we needed to finish on 30.
"Of the 14 games to go I wanted to win eight and I thought that was achievable.
"We're playing Newcastle next week and still we can reach that goal, of finishing on 28 points, which is a good finish to the year.
"You always want to make semi-finals but when it came down to the game, we had that period that was important to us and we didn't manage it."
While post-game discussion centred around the sin-binning of Broncos back-rower Matt Gillett, McGregor was quick to point out the ankle injury suffered by Dragons captain Ben Creagh that brought an end to his night after just 12 minutes and will likely finish his season.
Five-eighth Gareth Widdop was left to front the post-match media conference and conceded that the dispatching of Gillett gave the Dragons a window in which to claw their way back into the contest.
"I thought we started the second half quite well and with plenty of energy and the sin-binning definitely helped," said Widdop.
"We gained a lot of momentum and got right back into the game but a few things didn't go our way at the end and in the end we didn't get the result.
"Obviously disappointing that the finals aren't achievable now but I think as a group over the past 10 or 12 weeks we've definitely grown.
"We've got a good young squad here and we've definitely been building over the last number of weeks which is a real positive moving forward."